For 10 years now, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has been a web of interlinked films full of connections, crossovers and cameos, becoming a remarkable and bold film franchise unlike any other before it. With the latest blockbuster entry, Avengers: Infinity War, Marvel Studios has promised a sort of culmination of the past 18 movies-worth of stories and characters. While it isn’t without its faults, Infinity War makes good on its promise and remains a solid entry in the oversaturated series due to its high-stakes story, captivating characters and luscious visual effects.
Coming off of great successes with 2014’s Captain America: Winter Soldier and its 2016 follow-up, Civil War, Joe and Anthony Russo graciously return to direct the 19th entry in the long-running series (with a direct follow-up slated for next May). It’s almost disingenuous to merely label Infinity War as an “Avengers” film, however. Whether they’re an Avenger or not, nearly every major character in the MCU as well as their sidekick is featured here — including Black Panther, Spider-Man, Scarlet Witch and the entire Guardians of the Galaxy roster — and it’s honestly awesome to see so many of these characters sharing the screen together in a single film.
Opposite them is a foe deserving to be challenged by such a large army of superheroes. After being alluded to and even receiving some brief cameos in previous entries, Thanos (Josh Brolin) is finally allowed to become the center of attention here. I’ve felt frustrated with Marvel’s villains in the past, often believing that many of them lack substantial backstories or compelling motivations, and I was also very skeptical about the film’s ability to finally make good on the years-long build-up of the character. Thankfully, though, Thanos easily becomes one of the MCU’s greatest villains in his first major appearance. Brolin, who’s completely masked behind the computer-generated character, is also among the film’s best assets and shines through with a phenomenal performance.
In borrowing from comic book source material, screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely craft an engaging story centered around Thanos’ desire for amassing the six Infinity Stones that are scattered across the galaxy. When gathered together, these magical stones grant the possessor with absolute power. This includes the ability to wipe half of the universe’s population in an instant, which is exactly what Thanos wants to use them for, although his rationale may actually surprise you in a good way. Of course, it’s up to the two-dozen superheroes to stop him from completing his goal, and they’re willing to do so at any cost.
In featuring so many characters, though, the story of Infinity War becomes too bloated and its many characters spread too thin. The heroes are split into three main groups (and the film split into thirds), essentially, as they each attempt to stop Thanos in some way. Basically, Iron Man leads one group, and Thor and Captain America lead their own as well, each battling some of Thanos’ lieutenants along the way before getting to the main event.
There’s two-thirds of a great film here, as the Iron Man sections become the most integral to the main plot, while also highlighting some more incredible moments between Spiderman and Iron Man. The Thor-led parts add some spectacle and humor, with the interactions he shares with the Guardians being some of my favorite moments of the entire film. The obvious weak link here, though, is the Captain America portion, which is spent mostly in Wakanda alongside Black Panther. It’s unfortunate, because Black Panther recently became one of my favorite MCU films, and yet here his potential is all but wasted along with so many others.
The many action sequences included throughout can be fun to watch, but also fail to showcase anything we haven’t yet seen before in these films, ultimately leaving little impact. It’s too bad, too, because the special effects are as stunning as ever here, and the acting from the dozens of A-listers is, for the most part, really great. Infinity War does feel riskier than the last few Avengers movies, and is much darker than many of the recent Marvel films have been. And while I am interested to see the next Avengers installment, this film sort of fails to be the groundbreaking event I wanted and expected it to be.
Avengers: Infinity War isn’t going to generate any new fans for the franchise, but is likely to satisfy everyone who’s already been invested in the MCU since day one, and maybe even still impress those who have been feeling the overwhelming fatigue of superhero films as of late.
3.5 stars out of 5
— Michael Lane, Blog Editor